Category Archives: #nowplaying

Mighty Joshua

It recently hit me that I’m approaching a momentous tipping point: I grew up in Norfolk but moved to Richmond for college when I was 17, and that was nearly 17 years ago, so in a matter of a month or so, I will have lived in Richmond as long as I lived in Norfolk. It’s a weird thing to think about — especially at a time when I keep hearing about exciting changes taking place in Norfolk in recent years.

One of those recent developments is the NEON District, an intentionally drawn area of downtown where arts institutions, businesses, and events have coalesced to harness Norfolk’s creative energy. The Chrysler Museum, the Virginia Opera, the D’Art Center, Work | Release, glass working, tons of street art… taken together, these resources represent a tipping point of their own — a destination for visitors and a gathering place for folks in town. Really neat.

It also makes a pretty snazzy backdrop for an Overcoast Session. Longtime YHT readers might remember the Dharma Bombs’ Overcoast Session, which was filmed at the Carter Family Fold in association with Virginia Tourism. Their newest collaboration finds Richmond reggae artist Mighty Joshua serenading the NEON District with “Them A Watching,” from his self-titled 2013 album. Check it out below.

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Sleepwalkers

Blessed be this day.

The birds are singing more sweetly. The sun is shining more brightly, rendering colors more vivid than had previously been seen by the human eye. And in a stunning reversal, Friday the 13th has officially been declared the luckiest day. Why?

Because Sleepwalkers have released new music. This is not a drill.

Fresh on the heels of news they were signing with Spacebomb Records, Sleepwalkers have shared “Wake Up” and “Reasons To Give Up In You,” both absolute gems. All hyberbole aside, this is a truly exciting day for those of us who fell in love with their 2014 album, Greenwood Shade, and have been waiting to see what their next move would be. A move to Spacebomb? The payoff couldn’t be more perfect.

Part of the newsworthiness of this moment is the fact that Spacebomb is putting out music they had “no direct hand in making,” as the label’s site puts it. “No need to improve on this maximalist pop masterpiece,” they go on to say, pointing to something that has always distinguished Sleepwalkers — their complete mastery of the studio environment. The group complements savvy songwriting and memorable melodies with a rare ability to envision and achieve specific moods and colors. This guitar effect. That snare sound. The specificity reflects a powerful knowledge of recording approaches from the 1960’s onward, and that focus on process is infectious — it invites ongoing deconstruction and appreciation as you notice how individual studio brush strokes come together to form something that’s undeniable and fun in aggregate. In short, it’s music that makes me like music more.

Speaking of fun, here are the videos for “Wake Up” and “Reasons To Give Up In You.” The former is home to a hook you’ll be humming along to for the foreseeable future, with guitar work that captivates just as quickly. The latter offers a sense of buoyancy that swells and swells throughout, with a chorus that lifts you up and places you back down beautifully.

Go forth, dear reader, into this new and wonderful world that includes new Sleepwalkers songs. Long live the new Friday the 13th.

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VILLAGES

Happy summer, y’all! Now that we’re halfway through the year — with midway best-of lists popping up here and there like fireflies and hydrangeas — I’ve started looking back at the albums that have come out so far in 2018. It’s been eye-opening. This is shaping up to be a crazy-good year for Richmond music. A+ albums from Lucy Dacus, Kenneka Cook, Natalie Prass, Saw Black, Andy Jenkins, Scott ClarkYeni Nostalji, and others, all in these first six months. It’s pretty wild. And as of tomorrow, you can add VILLAGES to that list.

Their new self-titled album is a quick listen at seven songs, and it’s even quicker in terms of resonance. These songs are easy to love right away, and while catchiness plays a part, I think an even bigger factor is the clarity of Justin Paciocco’s songwriting. In his review of John Prine’s new album, The Tree of Forgiveness, Fresh Air critic Ken Tucker referred to the “metric precision” in Prine’s songwriting. I hear that same precision in Paciocco’s songs. The pacing, the rhyming, the way narratives unfold — it all just feels right. Impeccable, but not fussed-over.

Give lead single “Everything Is Fine” a listen below. The band will be toasting to the album’s release tomorrow at the Camel alongside The Northerners and Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires. Click here for more info.

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Crosby & Nash

If you haven’t already heard it, here’s a link to the ProPublica article that contains audio of children who were recently separated from their parents by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It’s as wrenching a piece of audio as you’ll hear. I listened last night after the rest of my family was asleep, and I wanted to go upstairs and wake my kids up just to hold them. I didn’t make it all the way to the end, but I tried, because this feels like one of those times when it’s important to look what’s happening directly in the face. It’s ugly and evil and can’t be ignored.

This morning I stumbled across “Immigration Man,” a song Graham Nash wrote after a run-in with U.S. Customs. That incident looks like a minor inconvenience when held up next to what’s happening to children on the Mexico–United States border, but the lyrics remain stirring. If you’re stirred enough to want to take action, here’s a link to an ActBlue page that will distribute your donation between charities working to help children separated from their parents at the border. And please vote in November. It won’t be the last time you hear me say that.

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West Nkosi

Found the 45 above at Goodwill earlier this week. A couple of tunes from South African saxophonist and longtime Ladysmith Black Mambazo producer West Nkosi. (The A-side is one of his hits, “Two Mabone.”)

Feels like now is the time to share it. The sun is shining, it’s warm, it’s Friday… maybe give B-side “1815 Special” a listen or two as you’re walking out of work. Not a bad way to greet the weekend, if you ask me.

Happy Friday, y’all.

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E.C. Ball and the Friendly Gospel Singers

Following the lead of the distinguished cvcfbds Instagram account by bringing church to the turntable on this fine Easter morning.

I hope y’all are having a nice weekend, with the comforts of family and/or candy close at hand.

E.C. Ball and the Friendly Gospel Singers — “Where Could I Go” [YouTube/Discogs]

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Hiss Golden Messenger

Coming out of blog hibernation to post a great song that’s being released for a great cause.

Hiss Golden Messenger recently teamed up with the Spacebomb gang to record “Passing Clouds,” a groovy Cameron Ralston-produced tune that combines the best of what the Spacebomb process and talent pool have to offer with M.C. Taylor’s distinctive and desperately needed sense of spiritual buoyancy. The cause I mentioned earlier? Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to end gun violence via education and advocacy.

Click here to snag the song and read a powerful message from Taylor. All proceeds go to Everytown, so please do show your support by making a purchase — the digital version is $2, and you can pre-order a 7″ vinyl version for $10.

Hiss Golden Messenger — “Passing Clouds” [Bandcamp]

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